A memoir written by French President Francois Hollande’s former companion, Valérie Trierweiler, will be published Thursday in an initial run of 200,00 copies. The hotly anticipated book (at least by the French media) recounts Trierweiler’s relationship with the French leader during his presidency and coincides with Hollande’s latest political crisis, i.e., the third cabinet reshuffle in two years.
In Thank you for the moment, Trierweiler describes how the president became “dehumanized” during his political accession: ““He was cold. He stopped smiling. I gave him legitimacy, but I was worth nothing.” But aside from a few shocking revelations – i.e., Trierweiler’s suicide bid after learning of the president’s affair with actress Julie Gayet – there looks to be little within the kiss-and-tell that could derail the president. Or, at least not any more than his disastrous economic policies have. France’s sleepy summer political season ended with a bang last week with rebellion within the left wing of Hollande’s Socialist government, the subsequent departure of the “frondeurs,” or rebels, notably former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, and the creation of the so-called Valls 2 government, named after Hollande’s rightward-leaning prime minister.
But despite the Elysee’s efforts at damage control, i.e., playing up the appointment of centrist Emmanuel Macron as economy minister, French voters aren’t biting. Hollande’s approval ratings are stuck below 20%; an astounding 80% of the French electorate has expressed zero confidence in Hollande’s economic policy. But while the probability of a presidential rebound is slim, there may yet be (limited) room for Hollande to emerge from his black hole of sinking popularity. Namely because of what Hollande’s recent firmness could presage for the future. After all, that a French leader long known and derided for his indecisiveness and passivity took the dramatic step of firing naysayers within his administration is not insignificant. Christian Makarian, editor at the French periodical L’Express notes, “This is the first time I’ve seen him with a strong will to enact a kind of cultural revolution, and show that he’s able to get rid of some bad habits from the past.”
Granted, Hollande’s upward climb will be long. He is facing stagnant economic growth, unemployment that hovers above 10%, continuing pressure from Brussels (and Berlin) to implement tough economic reforms, and dissatisfaction among party members who could block future initiatives. For now, Trierweiler’s tell all book is the least of his worries.